FLOODWATER RELOCATION PROGRAM
Concept by: Craig Hurley, Illinois Dept. of Transportation Certified Concrete Engineering Technician
I’m tired of hearing from the City Engineers, “That’s the way it is.”, or “We’ve been doing this the same way for forty years- we know what we’re doing.” Really?! One more time: Really??! The “way it is”, or “the way we’ve been trained to do something” is killing the rest of us and destroying our lives! We humans don’t seem to be paying attention to what our planet is trying to tell us. Every year we deal with Mother Nature and her wrath. Billions of dollars are spent on Disaster Relief. We have several major problems: Flood, Fire, Drought, Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Earthquakes. I’m going to focus on the first three:
Fire=Not enough water.
Drought=Not enough water.
Flood=Too much water.
In 2008, while working as an Illinois Department of Transportation Certified Concrete Engineering Technician (or... "Inspector on Construction Sites in Illinois"), I was sitting on my couch watching The Weather Channel. The fires in California raged out of control. My daughter lives there. There were days where she wasn’t allowed to go outside because of the hazardous smoke, and some of her friends had to be evacuated when the fires reached their neighborhood. At the same time, The Weather Channel reported Cedar Rapids, Iowa, under water after a massive flood because of a levee break that left 300,000 people homeless. In this same storm system, we had nine states under drought conditions and another ten states under flood watch. Nineteen counties in Illinois around the Mississippi River had been declared “disaster areas.” My brother and several of my family members live there (his house was eventually flooded because of rain and saturated ground one week later). The Mississippi River was overflowing, and a levee in St. Louis, Missouri, was about to break. My aunt lives there. It broke the next day, flooding the neighborhoods around her. The program Forecast Earth reported how the fertilizers from the flooded fields were draining into the Mississippi River, and were causing what is known as “Dead Zones” at the base of the Mississippi River where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing grows there. Where it should be tropical, nothing grows.
It saddened me because it’s our fault. We have not learned to control the disastrous effects of nature, or of ourselves, on ourselves. And where is the compassion for our brothers and sisters who are suffering? Lives destroyed. It occurred to me, however, that despite this, humans are capable of amazing feats. And humans are capable of change. It also occurred to me that every levee or dam known to man has failed. I’m going to repeat that on purpose so you get it:
EVERY LEVEE KNOWN TO MAN HAS FAILED!
So why do we keep building them, especially out of sand, dirt and clay? What happens to sand, dirt and clay when they mix with water? Duh! Do I really have to answer that for you?... I guess I do. They become mud and wash away. If you’re going to build a levee, at least build it out of concrete. And build it a little bit further from the shore to subdue a storm surge. (Although, I don’t recommend building levees at all. If we’ve learned anything from the Tsunami in Japan in 2010 to storms like Katrina and Sandy, we should not be building cities at or below sea level And, we cannot afford to rebuild cities that are wiped out by natural disasters. Ishinomaki, Japan has been wiped off the face of the planet three times in the past 100 years. If we are going to foolishly rebuild a city that we know thirty years from now is going to be destroyed, we should at least rebuild it "green", innovative in its design, and it should have the ability to withstand natural disasters. In other words, don't rebuild the same place, the same way).
Back to 2008. As I watched these tragedies we call "natural disasters" unfold, I asked myself how the advancement of science, technology, and construction were failing so many people. I then started channel surfing and came across Animal Planet, where I watched the simple act of nature compensating for its circumstances. A gorilla had stuck a bamboo shoot into a hole in the ground and was syphoning water to drink. One more time... A gorilla was sucking water out of a hole with a hollow stick! I thought: "Why can't we suck floodwaters out of the areas that the water is destroying and send that water to places that need it?!"
One of my jobs as an IDOT Tech was to inspect the aeration tanks and filtration houses being built at a local Wastewater (Sewage) Treatment Plant. Sewage Treatment Plants are usually located on rivers, and can pump and filter 100,000,000 (one hundred million) gallons of fresh water per day. I theorized utilizing these existing Wastewater Treatment Plants by creating and adding water pipelines that run from a treatment plant to another treatment plant down the line, until the flood waters, via pipeline, reach an area in the country that is under drought conditions. I call this idea Floodwater Relocation Program. It would be naive to say that this program would solve flooding. It will not. It will, however, solve the way we deal with drought by providing water to areas where there is none, or very little.
There are many durable plastics that we do not recycle. On the bottom of every plastic container is a triangle with a number. This number is any one of the numbers “1” through “8”. Numbers “1” through “3” generally get recycled. Numbers “4” through “8” do not. I suggest that we create water pipelines using these un-recycled, but finally recyclable materials.
There should be three water pipelines that are 2.5 to 3.5 feet in diameter bundled together, made of plastic and fastened with titanium bolts to deter rusting. These pipes should run along the banks, or on the bottom of our rivers, creeks, lakes, etc. We already know when it is going to rain, usually days in advance. 24 hours before it rains, the water levels should be lowered in your creeks and ponds, giving Mother Nature a place to put the water. During a storm, the Wastewater Treatment Plants continue to suck the water out, filter it, and pump it down the line, converting storm run-off into drinking water. This is helping to prevent, and hopefully avert, a flood.
I spoke with some Professional Engineers about this idea. Their response was: “Our Wastewater Treatment Plants couldn’t handle the volume of water.” I said, “That’s why the Floodwater Relocation Program design requires three pipes within the pipeline system. Then you can be sucking in and filtering 100,000,000 gallons of water while at the same time pumping out 100,000,000 gallons of water in multiple directions to multiple Waste Water Treatment Plants down the lines, until the water finally reaches the area where it is desperately needed.” Example: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Water is siphoned out by the local Wastewater Treatment Plant and pumped from plant to plant to plant (connect the dots), until the water reaches Atlanta, Georgia, where it fills Lake Lanier. Guess what? No more problems with drought, Atlanta! Or, it is pumped to California, where it helps to control the fires.
Building this Floodwater Relocation Program will provide much needed construction and maintenance jobs throughout the United States. It will hopefully help prevent flooding, and give us an advantage against the impending effects of the severe ecological changes provoked by the results of global warming. If we get a flood that this system cannot handle, then we are in trouble, children! Build an Ark.
One of the Engineers asked me about the ecological effects, “Are you changing the ecology in one area by providing water from another?” The way I look at it, humans have destroyed the ecology of every area we’ve inhabited. Floodwater Relocation Program will help to rehabilitate and rebuild the ecology of every State. We are going to work with and help Mother Nature in her plight to correct the damage we humans have done. Example: Lowering the Illinois River will most likely cause the evasive species of “Asian Carp”, who are eating everything in the Illinois River and destroying its ecology, to literally commit “hari- kari” by jumping out of the water and on to the shores. At this point, humans are hired to pick up the fish (more jobs!) and we all have a massive fish fry on that Friday night!
“Where is the money coming from to build this, Craig?” Well… Where is it coming from when we have a flood? Same place. We’re using future Disaster Relief Funds to prevent the disasters from costing us so much in the future. Also, we’re using Construction Funds that are provided on an annual basis by the Federal Government to the States. Give me a break already! You guys can build an oil pipeline through Alaska, one of the toughest terrains known to man, spending 784 billion dollars, so you can control and gouge us with gasoline prices, but you can’t build a water pipeline to save our lives? Huh… Interesting.
About four weeks later, I was once again watching The Weather Channel. Weathermen Paul Goodloe mentioned the amount of rain in Iowa, and then had the computer generated map scan down to Atlanta, Georgia, which was under severe drought conditions. Mr. Goodloe said, “If we could magically take the water from Iowa, and place it in Lake Lanier in Georgia, it would fill it for 53 years.” I sat there, stunned, as a Weather Man used the example on Nationwide television that I had used a month before. I thought to myself, “We can… ‘magically’… do that… Floodwater Relocation Program.”